Sunday, 3 July 2011

Artist's Profile: Patrick Coyle

Patrick Coyle is an artist who thrives on accident, impulse and imagination. Once the Coyle eye spots something, the brain goes into overdrive and one single moment of realization can take centre stage in his work for months after. It is these chance encounters with objects, language and images that Coyle thrives on in his work, which examines the idiosyncrasies of modern living and plays with the idea of publishing as an artwork, and artwork as publication.

Coyle studied BA Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art, London (2002-2005), and has just completed the MFA Art Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London (2008-2010). Meanwhile in the last year Coyle has been collaborating, performing, exhibiting and transmitting with such enthusiasm that I would be surprised if you haven’t seen his name somewhere.

One of the places where you will spot his name is on the list of artists exhibiting at the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2010, in which Coyle has several pieces. This includes a work he made for a show at The Mews Project Space, entitled This Works (2009), which deals with a breakdown in communication. He found the original text – a printed label warning visitors not to touch a graphite wall text - in an established public gallery. Once he had noticed it, he could not ignore it. Coyle took the original text from the gallery, and stencilled it on the wall of The Mews in graphite pencil, at the same dimensions as the graphite wall text that it referred to; with a spelling mistake included. The command of this voice of authority is lost in translation, leaving the message redundant. It does not work; a play on words, the title of the work emphasizes this failed command.

Alongside This Works, Coyle is also exhibiting Five years of more New Blank Documents than Saves. For this work, Coyle displays the old keyboard from his iBook G4 laptop, of which the letter ‘N’ has completely worn away.

Command + N = New Blank Document

For Coyle, this object represents the labour of his own particular writing practice. The worn down ‘N’ command on his keyboard is a hard worn sufferer of Coyle’s constant tapping of thoughts. To compare, the ‘S’ letter is still slightly visible, displaying Coyle’s work pattern of constant new ideas and new canvases, but less sentimental saving [Command + S = Save] and pondering. Coyle first showed this work at SHIFT., a fantastic project space run by artists Paul Good and Kirsty Wood. Offering young emerging artists a solo exhibition, SHIFT. also hands over a set of keys to the artist, allowing them to use the gallery before their exhibition to install and work in the space. Coyle treated this opportunity as a residency, setting up a makeshift studio in the space.

It was whilst Coyle was ‘artist in residence’ at SHIFT. that the website invited him to create a work for their upcoming online exhibition, on the theme SIMPLICITY. For this programme, Coyle produced the work Empty Grey Squares, which emerged from correspondence between Coyle and Marialaura Ghidini, the founder and curator of the site. Empty Grey Squares is made from the grey square template of a sticker website. On the website, the customer is directed to upload an image to print onto stickers. Coyle uploaded his, but changed his mind and deleted it, leaving the square template grey. Coyle was grabbed by the irony that the space is only filled by this grey square if you decide not to include an image. The work explains:

These three grey squares indicate a trailing-off into silence

The text for this work outlines the details of the procedure to design your own vinyl stickers. Everything is examined, and the fonts are dissected. Coyle took a screen-grab of the grey square on the site, and then uploaded this screen-grab image back into the frame. One grey square inside another grey square, like This Works, Coyle takes the representation of absence itself as his subject matter.

ENJOY YOUR JOURNEY is a phrase that, try as he might, Coyle cannot get out of his head, having found it above the exit to the WH Smith shop in Liverpool Street Station. The moment that he glanced at the sign sparked a continuous exploration between Coyle and the letters within this message.

One of the results of this exploration is a printed letter detailing Coyle’s various attempts to explain his initial experience with the sign. What had caught him first was the ‘OY’ of ENJOY, which mirrored the YO of YOUR, and was echoed in the O and Y of JOURNEY. Following this, he found that the letters UR and J were both repeated twice, and that EN was mirrored in the same way as OY. The encounter ended up as a short piece of prose in which Coyle imagined the sign starting a conversation with him in a Brummy accent: ‘Oi, you! Oiii!!!”

This does not seem too far fetched though coming from an artist who uses and thinks about words so much that he has worn the ‘N’ off his keyboard, and even has dreams of pots and pans talking to him – saying ‘SNAP + STOP’, which when he awoke realised spelt ‘POTS + PANS’ backwards. Even in his subconscious Coyle finds word plays, the uncanny and reversed meanings.

Over summer, Coyle had a solo exhibition at the Jerwood Project Space, entitled up. Whilst Coyle and the curator, Lily Hall held their first meeting in the project space the artist found himself constantly looking over Hall’s shoulder at the wall behind her; the wall made the direct shape of an arrow pointing upwards. From this moment of realisation the exhibition became arrow-obsessed. Coyle found arrows in all types of everyday objects, signs and images, documenting all of these findings and printing them onto green paper, which he then pasted all over the wall.

Coyle explored the meaning and representation of the command sign, and once the work was up on the wall, he held a series of recorded meetings with members of the public to discuss and exchange thoughts and reactions to the images; enabling an extension from the visual piece on the wall to an act of conversation.

Coyle was intrigued to find that several participants, including children, reacted to the work in a religious context. Coyle was interested in watching the public’s response to the placing of arbitrary arrows next to those that were intentional in their origin.

It seems even after the exhibition, arrows are still on Coyle’s mind. Whilst talking to him about this very article, his eyes hovered on a cardboard box behind me – out came the camera and the moment was documented. I turned around to see a partially hidden cardboard box that displayed an arrow and two visible letters of the logo, ‘UP’. A coincidence, or a conversation?

The dialogue with the viewer can also be seen in Coyle’s performance work. His typewriter has featured in several of his performances at Paradise Row, the ICA Reading Room and boyleANDshaw’s The Scutler, also at the ICA. Coyle types onto carbon duplicate paper, producing receipts for the viewer – again, responding to the people around him and thereby making it an almost collaborative work. Coyle has also performed with the collective GANDT, who offered him the W. Goodman Residency at The Woodmill which provided him with a studio and a contribution to their publication. Another performance piece is Alphabetes, in which the artist rambles through twenty-six objects and images that each relate to letters of the alphabet. Although this is from a memorized script, there is an unpredictable nature to his delivery when Coyle steers from the text, purposefully inviting the possibility of mistake.

With all this activity having been packed in to the last year, Art Licks did not hesitate in asking Patrick Coyle to be the artist to feature in the first issue of the magazine, for which he has produced, Powerful Predators and Hunters of the Night. Coyle shows a pure enthusiasm - he never stops looking, never ignores and is always excited by these chance findings.

Holly Willats

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This text was written for the feature 'Artist's Profile' for the Art Licks Magazine, Issue One.

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